KENAI (AP) -- Fred Houtman of wasn't having much luck fishing for king salmon this year on the Kenai River, but his luck turned with the tide on the last day of the 2002 season.
Houtman, of Boise, Idaho, landed an 89.25-pound king Wednesday. The fish was one of the biggest hauled out of the Kenai in a long time.
Only seven fish caught in the Kenai in the past 35 years have been bigger, including the world-record 97.25-pound fish caught by Les Anderson in 1985, according to records kept by the state Department of Fish and Game.
Houtman's lunker was 57.25 inches long, and its midsection would have barely squeezed into the waistband of a pair of size 34 slacks.
''That's probably the largest fish of the year,'' said Tim McKinley, a state sportfisheries biologist.
''When it came up alongside the boat, it looked like a 6-foot log,'' Houtman, 52, said. He was having the fish mounted so he can put it on a wall back home.
Houtman has fished the Kenai for the past six years. This season, he had been on the river about five times with minimal luck.
He headed out on a guided trip with Tim Berg's fishing service at 6 a.m. Wednesday and saw a large fish rolling in the water as the tide began flowing near Eagle Rock. Moments later, that fish or another just like it took his bait. It was standard tackle: Salmon roe and a red Spin-N-Glo.
''I set the hook, and the thing just went berserk,'' he said. For the next 25 minutes, the fish ricocheted from one side of the river to the other, downstream and back, and several times around the boat.
A fish that size was tough to net, he said. ''It took two of us to pull it into the boat.''
It was large enough that they decided to race over to a set of scales to see how much it weighed.
Houtman's big fish caps an odd fishing season that opened with a fizzle and ended with a bang. The early run of Kenai kings was the weakest on record. But July was a bonanza, with anglers hooking healthy kings and bagging fat red salmon as well.
The city of Soldotna, which hugs the river and is home to guide services, lodges and tackle shops, was humming all month. Stores were packed with people wearing rubber boots. A line of motor homes jammed the Sterling Highway, the main strip through town.
As if on cue, the frenzy evaporated Thursday with the end of the king salmon fishing season.
Houtman said his motor home will be headed out of town, too.
Word is that the silver salmon are swarming in Resurrection Bay, off Seward, he said. ''That's where I'm headed.''
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